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Welcome to Our Hyper Automated Marketing Future—And Why It’s a Good Thing

It’s been hard to miss the headlines about ChatGPT, the new viral artificial intelligence chatbot trained to generate eerily human-like responses and Dall-E, an AI illustrator that humans can use to create mind-blowing images. Both are a glimpse of our weird and wonderful tech future.

But the real story around AI and automation is that our AI future is already here. We’re soaking in it. And it’s changing ad buying and marketing profoundly.

Take Google’s Performance Max or PMax, a new automated Google tool that lets your ads show up across all of Google’s ad inventory—from display, YouTube and search to Maps and Gmail. It does everything for you. You set up your creative, set a budget and Google does the magic. One click puts your products in front of hundreds of millions of potential customers via a single campaign. It’s potent stuff.

Facebook has done something similar with Meta Advantage+ shopping—which uses AI to automate up to 150 creative combinations at once on the platform. It’s a super automated solution that doesn’t require any work. You input a few parameters and then they do all the work algorithmically.

And both solutions are available to the smallest of small businesses as well as the biggest advertisers on these platforms.

Our highly automated marketing future has arrived.

This shift has been a long time coming, of course. Programmatic ad buying is automation at scale and it’s now old school. But back in 1996, it was a profound change over contacting Yahoo and buying ad placement from 2:00 to 10:00 P.M. on the homepage to now being able to buy inventory on many home pages in real time through auctions, based on who’s visiting the website. It was a sea change at the time but now it’s everything. Even CTV and podcasts now use programmatic placement and bidding. These days if you’re not using programmatic, you’re not in the game.

More recently in 2015, Facebook rolled out dynamic ads in the feed, and that was a huge breakthrough too. Now Meta has value bidding and automated or lowest cost bidding, which are fully automated and don’t require you to be in there changing the numbers throughout the day based on performance. As much as it pains me to say, tuning your platform buy in real-time is largely an obsolete skill set.

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Hyper automation is infusing every part of the industry and we’re approaching the singularity for marketers. Unlike sci-fi however, this doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Expect AI to continue to commoditize vast swaths of the ad industry. But more profound changes will happen as a result.

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The platforms are changing—and we should change with them.

In our programmatically-obsessed, multi-billion-impression industry, the concept of creativity has been honored only in the breach, if at all. Now, it’s time to flip the script. With automation taking over bidding and targeting, we have a chance to reset our priorities and reemphasize the importance of creative.

Marketers give creative to the platforms. It still matters—a lot—and it’s the single biggest lever brands and agencies have to differentiate themselves and truly excel. Highly original creations with a human touch are still valued. And hyper automation means there’s more time and resources for really great creative.

Figuring out the creative strategy required for automation is a new skill we all need to develop. The creative velocity required, the quality necessary, how you go about doing all that—we’re just starting to learn what works and why. And hyper automation is an opportunity to refocus our industry toward producing truly inspiring creative, and the technology that enables it.

The machines, platforms and algorithms can handle optimization and measurement—and marketers can return to a time when advertising and media conversation was about creative that truly moves people. We can assemble writers, designers, and technologists into teams that can engage the intellect and emotions of audiences and individuals across all channels, toward the goal of creating enduring brands. The result will be better outcomes for consumers, advertisers and brands alike.

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